Akron Glass Tinting: Ready for AnythingApril 15th, 2010 | Category: Featured Content
Most kids would rather sleep in on a Saturday morning than get up early to help their dads out at work; this was certainly true for Al Mothersbaugh, who now is owner of Akron Glass Tinting in Kent, Ohio. But that didn’t stop him from learning a skill at an early age.
“I’ve been hanging film since I was 12 when my dad ripped me out of bed every Saturday morning,” says Mothersbaugh.
And like a lot of kids, Mothersbaugh also admits it was his dream to grow up and be a rock star. His cousins actually are in the popular 1980s rock band Devo (which was based in Kent, Ohio), which skyrocketed to fame as a one-hit-wonder with “Whip It.” Mothersbaugh wanted to follow in their footsteps, and did so, touring with his own band, from 1992 to 1996. But all the while, he says, whenever he was home he’d be back at work at the family tint business.
Eventually, he chose to say goodbye to the band and hello to a full-time career in the film business.
“I was 30, I had just gotten engaged and decided it was time to clock in, so I quit the band,” Mothersbaugh says. “I felt bad, but I had to do it. Most people start their careers at 21 or 22; I was 31, 32.”
Today, despite the rough economy, Mothersbaugh says his business has managed to survive and prosper, and he knows exactly what his next steps need to be in order to continue forward.
From hanging film as a kid with his dad to managing the business today, the world of window film has seen many changes.
“This was a side job for my dad and he was real old-school. He was the kind of guy who could change his own brakes, change his own oil, bear-hug a water heater. He got into this after he was at a plastics convention and came across an earlier version of film that was liquid,” says Mothersbaugh. “The oldest receipt I have is from 1972 when he bought some cans of stuff from this company called General Solar Corp. It was a liquid window tint and he would put it into this electronic machine and flow it onto windows and then it would come down like maple syrup. He was doing that before I was born.”
After high school, Mothersbaugh attended Kent State University and continued to work in the window film business on the weekends. Even after college, window film remained just a side business, as the rock band was his top priority. But, it was during this time when he learned one of the biggest lessons of his career: the importance of professionalism.
“I’d [be home and I’d] go out to these jobs wearing my Doc Marten boots and low Dickies shorts and Ramones t-shirt. I had this huge mane of hair and I looked like Side-Show-Bob (from The Simpsons) and I’d try and sell these jobs,” Mothersbaugh recalls. “And some people, who felt good about working with a family business, would give me an order, but a lot of the time I would lose to the competition because I wasn’t professional enough. Right in my backyard, I was losing jobs to guys from Cleveland and it was troubling to me.”
And that’s when he realized it was time to move on, and he left the band.
Soon thereafter, the time came for Mothersbaugh to take over the family business.
“My brother and I ran it for awhile, but it turned out my brother didn’t really like the business, so he stepped out and I ran with it,” says Mothersbaugh. “Then gradually I started adding installers and I sold my biggest job ever (at the time) right after I got the business. And we’ve just kept growing and have not looked back. We’ve had our bumps and bruises just like everyone else, but when it comes down to it I focus on relationships and face time.”
An exclusive 3M dealer, Akron Glass Tinting was named the company’s New Dealer of the Year in 2007, and Mothersbaugh says the relationship has afforded him many opportunities.
“I just started using this new [3M product] called Di-Noc and it’s an 8-mil architectural laminate that you can put on any smooth surface to change its look,” he explains. “And it ties right into sustainability because you can take a bunch of old doors that would end up in a landfill, put this coating on them and make them into something gorgeous. You could make it look like bamboo.”
While heat, fade and glare are common reasons for using window film, Mothersbaugh has also been successful with decorative films, and is an associate member of both the International Interior Design Association and the American Society of Interior Design.
“At one time I carried one frosted film; now I have more than 100. If you get an architectural drawing that says solar control film it’s surprising because nine out of ten times they are specifying a frosted film,” he says.
Having grown up in the Akron area, Mothersbaugh is right at home with where he needs to be. And he’s happy with where his business has taken him, both personally and professionally, and says one of the best parts is the freedom the job has afforded him.
“You have to balance your family with being proactive, doing what you say you’re going to do, constantly de-briefing yourself on what you did wrong and what you did right and always strive to have good conversations with customers.
“At the end of the day if things go wrong I take a lesson and learn from it. I know I will lose jobs and win jobs but I de-brief every time and allow myself to enjoy the successes.”
Don’t miss the May-June issue of Window Film magazine to read more about Akron Glass Tinting.